The career you choose to pursue is one of the 3 most important decisions you’ll ever make in your entire life. The other is likely going to be your life partner and religion. All of these 3 determine your values, happiness, and financial independence.
One of the biggest misconceptions about building a career is that sometimes, people assume it’s the same as having a job. No, it’s not. There’s a remarkable difference between the two. A job is a current employment that pays you for a specific set of activities according to a prior agreement, either legally binding or not. Whereas, a Career is a life-long profession that is developed from one’s skill set, series of activities, or jobs and determined by one’s choices over the long-term. Therefore, developing a career requires strategic and careful decision making over a period of time.
So how do most of us choose our careers? We tend to start from our pre-teen years when we have very little knowledge about the world. We choose to become Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Bankers, and so on without knowing the commitment, responsibilities, and experience required to become successful and satisfied in those roles. Worse off, we think by having a degree in that field, we are truly prepared for the road ahead. In many cases, this is far from the truth. Millions of people graduate every year with similar degrees, so don’t think that the law degree you have makes you so special. There are a lot of qualities other than a degree that makes a great lawyer.
One of the interesting things we’ve seen in recent years is how people are becoming more dynamic about career choices and how it continues to evolve over time. Today, specific events shape our thoughts to make new career decisions during our professional lives. This could be due to the creation of new industries, technologies, and job roles that either fascinate us or bring about new opportunities that never existed during our university education; so be prepared for life-long learning as the average millennial is likely to change careers five times during their working lives. I know this sounds so different from our parents’ generation, where they spent about 30years working in the same field for probably one or two employers, retire and then live off their pension but this is the current reality of things and it’s likely never going back to what it used to be.
The world is rapidly evolving and whilst it is said to be driven by technology, there are a whole lot of other factors beyond the scope of this topic impacting the future of work and careers. If you’ve been in the job market for a while, I need not tell you that having a degree is no longer a guarantee for future employment. There’s a whole lot that goes into building a successful career. If you’re seriously considering a new career path regardless of whether you’re still at University, looking for your first job, or a well experienced professional looking for a new challenge, I created a 2-part step by step process for choosing an awesome career in the 21st century.
To make it easier to assimilate the process, I’ll use a simple case study that you can redesign for yourself.
Raymond happens to be a hypothetical mentee of mine who is about to graduate from a state university with a degree in Computer Engineering. He comes from a low middle-income class family that has strong values in education, work ethic, and religion. He happens to be good with numbers, can sometimes be charming, and has acquired some leadership qualities after being the vice president of his university engineering department.
So how does Raymond go-ahead to make a career choice as he’ll be entering the job market in the next 6months? The first step in the 2-part process is the:
Part A: The Evaluation Stage:
A big mistake most people make is to decide on a career path without having to conduct a personal audit of their current abilities, strengths, financial situation, interests, values, and so on. You need to know what you have in order to evaluate whether you’ll be a good fit or succeed in a chosen career. You may not have everything required but at least you know your starting point and from there you can determine the next steps in order to make the right choice. Let me simplify the evaluation stage in 3 steps:
Step 1 – What is your Personal Endowment?
This broadly refers to the assets and capabilities you possess that makes you valuable. It could be natural talents, skill set, high social capital, or family name and wealth. You could have a high PE score if you were born in the British or Saudi Royal Family but you could also possess other abilities that are truly special. Shaquille O’Neal is 7ft tall and whilst that doesn’t translate to being good at basketball, we can admit his size helped him a lot and that was a good career move. Raymond is certainly not a behemoth but he’s very analytical and has shown to be quite the problem solver. His superpower is his excellent communication skills. He’s able to explain difficult concepts in simple terms to the average person. In his case, I’ll say his current PE score is just below average. No family connections or social capital of his own and very little income to re-invest in himself or display his skill set to a large group of people. You may ask why this is so important? You can only get the job when you’re in front of the person hiring!
Step 2 – Do you have the GOAT Mentality?
To have a GOAT mentality means to have the values, habits, attributes, and qualities of the greats. GOAT refers to the “Greatest of all Times”, a term that has been made popular in hip-hop culture. Do you have strong values? do you falter under pressure? are you easily influenced by others and their opinions? Do you have a strong self-belief? Do you have willpower and grit? Are you highly ambitious and independent? The answers you give to the above questions would determine whether you have the GOAT mentality or not. Why is this so important for career selection? The truth is that most people have a low PE score and it’s the GOAT mentality that enables us to continually hone our skills, be perseverant, and strive for success. President Obama would have never become President without having the GOAT mentality and I know it’s a bit of a stretched example as many of us don’t have plans to be that successful but do you really want to be in a career and at least not try to be in the top 1% of professionals in that field? If not, you might as well consider moving to another blog.
My Mentee, Raymond, is quite ambitious and focused. He’s financially motivated although he likes being a creator that’s why he opted to study computer engineering against his Dad’s choice of wanting his son to follow in his accounting footsteps.
Step 3 – Selecting from all possible choices:
Steps 1 and 2 above are all about determining your current assets, values, and personal attributes. Without doing these exercises, you can have a false sense of who you are, what you have, and how to position yourself for numerous career opportunities. Now, in the selection step, you may need to highlight your interests, goals, personal attributes, values, and link them to possible industries and job roles you’ll like to work in. As a computer engineer, Raymond could work in various sectors as part of a team that develops smart appliances, self-driving vehicles, mobile phones, video game consoles, aerospace systems, and a host of products for tech startups. If he drills further, his skills could be needed in some aspects of the energy sector, banking, telecoms, healthcare, and agriculture. Remember that I said he’s analytical and good with numbers. He could find work in Management Consulting and Investment Management if he chooses to go that route. It would be great for you to talk to people in those fields in order to have a better understanding of their day-to-day and what it takes to succeed.
If you don’t know anyone directly, a good starting point is using Linkedin to build connections and get honest feedback from those already in the field. This is referred to as informational interviews. Once you’ve listed out where your skills are needed and what the requirements for success are, you’ll need to go to the next stage which is to create a list of your interests, personal attributes, goals, and values. Circle out your top 3 favorites or most important elements on each of the lists. Once you’re done, you can put all I’ve said above together and narrow down the career options to a few possible roles before proceeding to part B.
Based on Raymond’s choices, he seems interested in working in a team to solve business problems as far as he’ll be given some autonomy and opportunity to be creative and build his leadership qualities. He may seriously want to consider going into software development, management consulting or product management as his primary career choice since he’s also interested in a high paying job. Whilst it is important to be focused, he should not eliminate other job roles such as leadership or management programs in organisations that matches his interest, values and would leverage on his strong skill set.
One of the core factors we considered as we are developing the career planner at Reventify is the basic understanding that;
Your Interest + Values + Skillset = Awesome Career
Part B: The Implementation Stage:
Once you’ve narrowed down your career options to a few roles, the next step is
Step 4 – Acquisition:
Your career success is going to be dependent on the skills and relationships you acquire over time, hence, the need to focus on a few possible career moves. Your chosen field may require you to take certain exams and have specific certifications in order to be competitive or demand a higher salary. It would be advisable to seek mentors in that field that can provide the right guidance and opportunities so you don’t get lost in a world of ubiquitous information. Interestingly enough, it’s much easier to build new relationships and derive insights on almost any industry thanks to professional social media sites such as LinkedIn. Learning new skills has also gotten cheaper over time, so you shouldn’t have any real excuse not to develop yourself.
Step 5 – Action:
I just had to include this here because I know many of us jump from one site to another reading all we can but never doing a damn thing about it. That awesome career you’re looking for is not just going to drop on your lap. We have to put in a lot of work. Once you understand the concepts of this article, start to create daily habits and tasks to be done. Also have goals and monitor your progress accordingly, probably with a close friend or mentor keeping tabs on you. This puts further pressure on you, which is more of a good thing than bad.
So, why is it important to choose the work you love?
- You’re motivated and driven to put more effort and be persistent in spite of the challenges you’d face.
- You’re most likely engaged, which improves your level of creativity and proactivity on the job.
- You are likely to be adaptive – looking for something new to learn and solve in your chosen field.
Concrete Advice for Building Your Career
- Create a portfolio of work – working on paid or voluntary projects can really help build your confidence and get your foot into the door of the industry or field you’re interested in building your career. If you can’t easily find projects to work on, consider running an e-commerce store or affiliate blog. This teaches you business principles that would be helpful in almost any business-related career down the line.
- Focus your effort on building a strong network – One of the biggest mistakes I made after University was assuming that a decent CV was all I needed. People within your network would share information about opportunities that you didn’t think existed. If you have a good network, they’ll likely become your strongest asset after you. Maintain connections with people of similar interests and values.
- Become a lifelong learner – In a rapidly changing world, you must become a lifelong learner. The shelf life of knowledge is getting shorter. We need to build a bi-annual self-inventory where we review our current state of learning and determine if we are getting closer to our goals or not. Continuously be curious about new developments in your chosen field. Be interested in other fields that you have little knowledge of. You never know what the outcome could be. Have learning goals and pay attention to transferrable skills.
There are specific things you need to acquire such as various skill sets, habits, growth mindset, communication & interpersonal skills in order to succeed in your chosen career. Take actions on concrete plans and convert them into economic value.
In life, you’re always competing against someone. If we take a look at a typical example such as a football team, you’ll always have one or two-star players, some very good ones and a few others that are questionable but at least they play their part. You’ll always have those that are at the top of their game and are usually at the forefront of things. They may not necessarily be the lead but they are usually visible and they get shit done. You’ll have to decide on which kind of player are you?
It used to be okay to go into a career that didn’t excite you. You may know someone whose parents may have influenced the career they choose, or you may be that person. In order to compete in today’s world of work, it has become inherently more important to take charge of your career by doing work that excites you, that you derive meaning from in order to be successful.
Choosing careers is based on your unique characteristics, values, and skill set. What do you value (financial freedom, etc)? What are the current transferable skills that you take to other fields of interest? What skills do you need to learn and how accessible are they to you? Define the kind of people you’ll like to work with. Look for companies that have that culture and you’ll have a great career.